Smile You're on Candid Camera

I have always loved technology, and am amazed what can be accomplished as a result of recent inventions. I recently read an in-depth document on a new use for facial recognition software. I have heard the term used on high tech shows like CSI Cyber, NCIS and Bones, and I laugh at how they make a relatively complex process seem very simple and easy to execute. Alas, I now realize that the process is not as complex as I had envisioned.

Facial recognition is where a camera takes your photo, and a series of markers are placed on strategic points on your face. The area is then mapped to a computer grid and checked against thousands (if not millions) of images, to find who you are. Although the process is becoming more common, it was not until recently that it was used for anything other than law enforcement.

A major department store in the UK is now using the software to scan the faces of its customers. It then associates the information with shopping habits, purchasing trends and a variety of 'useful' information, which will help them analyze purchasing trends and better serve their customers. Several stores in the US and Canada are also experimenting with this new generation of surveillance (facial recognition), which to me is a fierce invasion of my privacy.

I suppose I am not overly concerned if anyone tracks my face, labels me for my shopping habits and sends me information pertaining to the way I live my life. After all, I have been receiving personalized mail for many years. I know through data mining, companies have information about everyone’s buying trends, and this is just another addition to the massive database that exists somewhere in the magical cloud.

The coupons included with my Visa bill, discounts sent to me with Air Miles statements and general ‘junk mail’ all come from various tracking systems, information databases and lifting of information from most anywhere. Everybody tracks what I do. I am flattered that so many people are concerned about where I spend my money. Facial recognition is only the latest in the world's methodology of tracking everyone on our planet.

Privacy, or at least the lack thereof, is a grave concern, and it should be. I don't think anyone wants their personal information pasted all over the place, but let us not make more of it than we need to. The recent law suit between Apple and the FBI was a real test for big brother and our privacy. The FBI wanted Apple to share their encryption so they could apprehend a suspected criminal. Apple refused, and they should. Once you eliminate encryption or share the codes, there is no security left. Your credit card information will be at high risk, your health records will be susceptible to scrutinization, your phone calls and text messages will be open season for any official (and no doubt unofficial) agencies to gather information.

The question of course that arises is: should authorities be able to simply access your private data, no matter where it is stored? If the answer is yes then why shouldn't department stores or anyone else for that matter, also have access to your data? What if the information is leaked or hacked and showered all over the Internet for the world to see? Oh, I forgot, we already have that, and it’s called Facebook.

I chuckle when I listen to privacy advocates defend the right to confidentiality, yet their Social media sites display all types of personal data.

Facebook is the largest source for identity theft in the world. I wonder if people realize when they post something that they are giving away information forever. I recall a recent post where a person complained about the teller in her bank who was very rude. In that post she included the name of the institution, the branch, the time of day she was there and a picture of the teller, which happened to show the woman's bank card, numbers and all. The bank asked her to take the information down the next day, but it was too late, as her financial assets had already been compromised.

Technology is evolving at an extremely rapid pace, and we will never escape the clutches of information seekers. Did unlisted phone numbers prevent unwanted calls? Did the no-call list prevent annoying interruptions at dinner time? Did Polaroid pics invade our privacy? Trust me, nothing is sacred. My only advice in this never ending world of evolving technology is, make sure you have nothing to hide and no one will ever discover any secrets about you. Remember, Big Brother is watching!

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